Program Information

The Doctor of Philosophy in Geography, Planning, and Design is a research-oriented degree offered by the College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Colorado Denver. The PhD in Geography, Planning, and Design is the only doctoral program in planning, architecture, or landscape architecture in the state of Colorado.   

Since 1997, the program has trained planners, architects, and landscape architects to become high-impact faculty members, consultants, and intellectual leaders who have a critical understanding of the social, political, and global conditions that influence their professions. Students can take advantage of resources in all departments and fields in the college and elsewhere in the university system, with more than 30 faculty members from 11 departments able to supervise and advise dissertation research. Interdisciplinary study and cross-disciplinary inquiry occur in a congenial work environment in one of the most dynamic and fast-growing urban regions in the United States.

Solving critical urban and environmental problems in the 21st century requires that we move beyond traditional academic silos and modes of knowledge production. At CU Denver, our unique, interdisciplinary PhD program in Geography, Planning, and Design prepares students to be critical thinkers, engaged scholars, and innovative researchers capable of addressing complex and emergent issues. Our students explore interactions between society and the built and natural environment and engage in research aimed fundamentally at promoting sustainable, healthy, and socially just communities at local, regional and global scales. Using a combination of hands-on research, advanced knowledge, and leading-edge techniques from the fields of Geography, Planning, and Design, our students are prepared to tackle important social and environmental issues.

Areas of Emphasis

The PhD program provides four interdisciplinary areas of emphasis that leverage diverse yet complementary faculty strengths. Collectively, they encompass the social, environmental, and spatial sciences and reflect our commitment to collaboration and integration across traditional academic disciplines.

To foster livable and resilient communities, cities, and regions, our students and faculty closely examine interactions between governing bodies, members of civil society, and the places they live, while also developing tools and approaches that enable more sustainable futures. Courses and research projects in this area draw from fields related to land use planning, housing and transportation policy, human geography, and community planning.

To protect our natural resources, promote healthy and safe communities, and improve the communication of environmental knowledge, our students and faculty examine diverse social-environmental relationships in built and natural settings. Within this area of emphasis, our courses and projects utilize insights from fields such as human-environment geography, landscape architecture, environmental planning, and physical geography.

To promote social justice and sustainable land use in both local and international contexts, our students and faculty contribute to planning practices and policy pathways that improve the lives and livelihoods of diverse communities and future generations. Within this area of emphasis, our courses and research projects draw on fields such as community planning, environmental justice, and political ecology.

When conducting cutting-edge research, advancing novel theories, and developing creative solutions, our students and faculty are encouraged to employ mixed-methods research approaches. Members of the program use a combination of innovative qualitative and quantitative methodologies, iterative design and decision-making approaches, advanced geospatial technologies, hands-on fieldwork, and engaged public scholarship.

Master of Urban and Regional Planning Students at Orientation

Student Profiles

PhD Faculty

Faculty Profiles

MURPAA Board Member Eugene Howard

Alumni Profiles

Students at 2018 CAP Student Orientation


Students working in a bright studio


01-12-19_view of CU Denver - skyline